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Arsenal vs. Chelsea: match preview

Kickoff: Monday, December 27, 3 PM EST, Emirates Stadium
TV Coverage: ESPN 2, ESPN 3, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Mobile, probably The Ocho
SBN Chelsea Perspective: We Ain't Got No History

Well; looks like it's time for Arsenal to go right back into the lions' den a couple of weeks after the match at Old Trafford, only this time, the lions' den is The Emirates.  Which is good, right?

Chelsea, 2-0 winners last time Arsenal faced them in October, come into this match on a subpar (for them) run of form, particularly compared to that which they brought to the match this autumn.  Injuries to Frank Lampard, Alex, and Didier Drogba (is malaria an "injury"?  Or an "illness"?) have made life tough for the Blues, and they come into Monday's match one point behind Arsenal in the league table, 17 games played apiece.

Arsenal played well in October, but Chelsea finished their chances, and the Gunners did not.  There was also concern after the match about the deployment of two holding midfielders for Arsenal against one for Chelsea.  It will be interesting to see whether Arsène Wenger uses his favorite pair from this season, Alex Song and Jack Wilshere, or whether he opts to set out recent returnee Abou Diaby next to Song, or a more steady passer, Denilson.

Whomever he chooses, it seems apparent that he will put Cesc Fabregas in front of them, which makes the choice of striker interesting.  Given the manager's comments about Chamakh having played a lot of minutes this year, it might not be entirely surprising to see him use Robin van Persie as the striker in front of Fabregas, with support on the wings from Samir Nasri and Andrei Arshavin.

As for the back, one suspects that Wenger might go for Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny again, although Johan Djourou has looked very good in his appearances this year, has pace, and offers more in the air than either of his French teammates.

The game will likely hinge on how Arsenal manage to deal with the Drogba threat, and how their midfield trio work against the John Obi Mikel/Michael Essien/Frank Lampard group that presents problems, well, for everyone on earth...

Potential lineup:

Fabianski (Szczesny?)

Sagna           Squillaci          Koscielny         Clichy

Song         Wilshere


Nasri      van Persie       Arshavin

with Theo Walcott's speed, Abou Diaby's drive, Denilson's calm, and Tomas Rosicky' thrusts?  off the bench as necessary.